Wend Kuuni (1982, Gaston Kaboré)

Seems from the quotes below like this was a pioneer work for African film in the early 80’s, but today on video it’s not too interesting to me. Pedestrian filmmaking, awful music and a voiceover that doesn’t seem too sure of itself.

To be fair, the music and voiceover are hardly ever around, and what’s left is a simple story of a mute boy who gets adopted by a weaver, befriends a little girl, and finally sees something traumatic (suicide body of older guy who got publically shamed by his young wife) that causes him to start speaking about traumas past (mother who was chased out of town for being a witch because she wouldn’t remarry).

People converse in a casual, disinterested way – guess that’s a cultural thing, since the usual tendency with inexperienced filmmakers/actors is to over-emphasize everything.

Kino says it is “a clever fable demonstrating how traditional values can heal and unify a modern African state.”

American University Library says it “demonstrates how cooperation and caring can overcome bigotry and intolerance.”

Library of African Cinema notes that it was the first prominent feature film produced in Burkina Faso, and a pioneering attempt to “Africanize” film language. Dialog was kept at a minimum, to maximize understanding among different language groups.

Harvard Film Archive: “One of the first films to adapt the measured rhythms of traditional African storytelling, Wend Kuuni recasts a precolonial tale of village life during the Mossi empire into a lyrical cinematic form.”

Cineaste: “Kabore’s work, however, does not merely project a lost paradise, it also has contemporary overtones in its depiction of bold actions by women in defiance of the patriarchal order.”

Buud Yam in 1997 was a sequel, a Wend Kuuni coming-of-age story, which doesn’t seem to be on video.